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Selecting a VDI performance measurement and management tool

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Guaranteeing appropriate levels of performance takes a lot more than just throwing additional bandwidth at a virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI). Building reliable performance requires measurement, testing and validation -- three items that often become afterthoughts during a VDI deployment.

But how can you judge the amount of VDI desktops a deployment can support if you don't know what level of performance the WAN, LAN and networking components are capable of?

Beginning a VDI project requires planning, and that planning should include a way to determine which desktops, users and applications are a good fit for VDI and which ones aren't. Once VDI is deployed, organizations also want to proactively identify when performance and user experience aren't living up to their expectations. While that may sound like a simple case of using assessment tools, with VDI, measurement can be a complicated endeavor.

Layers of technology make it more complex to measure and classify VDI's health and user experience. That complexity has led to a whole ecosystem of VDI measurement products. Instead of leaving performance to chance, you can turn to robust tools from many vendors that measure performance, gather trending data and offer solutions to bandwidth-related problems.

Selecting the appropriate product is a matter of defining what should be measured, how those measurements should be reported and which actions should be taken to fix any problems. Look for the following features in a virtualization performance and management tool:

  • Usability The technology should offer real-time actionable information via a customizable dashboard.
  • Data store The data store should be configurable, support access from multiple tools, offer import and export capabilities, and support multiple concurrent users.
  • Action specification The product should offer recommendations, additional research capabilities and a way to act on discoveries or alerts.
  • Independence Look for a vendor-independent product that eschews vendor bias in every virtualized application tier -- server, storage, desktop, etc. The product should also remain a neutral party with respect to problem diagnosis.
  • Depth It should have detailed metrics across a range of technologies to monitor VDI at all levels -- from latency and throughput to traffic.
  • Real-time management Look for the ability to monitor in real time with interactivity, plus real-time updated charts and alerts.
  • History Be sure the virtualization tool stores activities and trends and provides the information needed to build historical analysis reports.
  • Extensible The product should span multiple virtualization domains and be able to combine data into comprehensive reports, yet still possess the ability to break out individual domains, segments, users and endpoints.
  • Integration Can it integrate with existing monitoring and management tools? Does it have a broad range of industry-standard communications interfaces?
  • Identify It should be able to identify performance dependencies, bottlenecks and relationships among various VDI components.
  • Low impact The product should possess out-of-band capabilities, use passive monitoring and support updates without disrupting network links. Installation of modules, data collectors and end-point agents shouldn't disrupt network usability.
  • Deployment Make sure there are deployment options that allow customers to incrementally add features, data-collection modules and updates as needed without disrupting operations.
  • Scalability It should be scalable enough to support the widest range of target networks, from small multisite concerns to the largest enterprise, which may have thousands of servers and petabytes of storage.

Metrics should also include more than just latency and bandwidth. Comprehensive tools will measure everything about the physical and virtual machines, including CPU performance and load, as well as the performance of other components that can affect end-user experience. The product should also track elements such as virtual machine refresh rates, end-point response times and what is accessing end points.

Several vendors offer products that support these requirements, including Akorri, BMC Software, CA, Citrix Systems, HP, IBM, Liquidware Labs, Virtual Instruments and VMware. Simply put, finding a product or suite that enables performance management, monitoring and analysis while meeting corporate needs is no longer impossible.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Frank Ohlhorst is an IT journalist who has also served as a network administrator and applications programmer before forming his own computer consulting firm.


This was first published in August 2010

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